GlobalFoundries Files Patent Claims Against TSMC, Seeks to Ban Imports of Nvidia, Apple Chips

GlobalFoundries today announced that it’s filed lawsuits against Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) in the U.S. and Germany over the latter company’s alleged infringement of 16 patents. The company said that it’s looking to halt the import of processors made with the technologies as well as seeking “significant damages from TSMC based on TSMC’s unlawful use of GF’s proprietary technology in its tens of billions of dollars of sales.”

Note that GlobalFoundries said it wants to stop the import of processors made with the technologies it believes are covered by its patents. The company recognized that TSMC doesn’t usually import those processors into the U.S. or Germany; its customers do. That means the lawsuits could affect much of the tech industry: TSMC said that in 2018 it was “manufacturing 10,436 different products using 261 distinct technologies for 481 different customers.”

The list of companies supplied by TSMC includes AMD, Nvidia, Apple, Mediatek and many others, which means that GlobalFoundries could bring the tech industry to a halt if it’s allowed to stop imports to the U.S. and Germany. 

The lawsuits were filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. Federal District Courts in the Districts of Delaware and the Western District of Texas and the Regional Courts of Dusseldorf and Mannheim in Germany. GlobalFoundries leaned hard on TSMC being headquartered in Taiwan in its press release, effectively portraying the dispute as an Eastern company profiting off the innovations of its Western competitor.

That positioning was made clear in the following statement that was provided with the release:

“While semiconductor manufacturing has continued to shift to Asia, GF has bucked the trend by investing heavily in the American and European semiconductor industries, spending more than $15 billion dollars in the last decade in the U.S. and more than $6 billion in Europe’s largest semiconductor manufacturing fabrication facility. These lawsuits are aimed at protecting those investments and the US and European-based innovation that powers them,” said Gregg Bartlett, senior vice president, engineering and technology at GF. “For years, while we have been devoting billions of dollars to domestic research and development, TSMC has been unlawfully reaping the benefits of our investments. This action is critical to halt Taiwan Semiconductor’s unlawful use of our vital assets and to safeguard the American and European manufacturing base.” 

TSMC hasn’t publicly commented on GlobalFoundries’ lawsuits at time of writing. We’ve reached out to the company for a statement and will update this post if it responds. The company recently published its first blog post–in which it proclaimed that Moore’s Law isn’t dead–so responding to multiple lawsuits from GlobalFoundries would make a heck of a second entry. But we suspect the company will restrain itself to press releases and court filings.

GlobalFoundries announced in August 2018 that it would cease development of its 7nm process to focus on being a “specialty foundry.” The company recently showed off 3D chips it developed alongside Arm to enable a “new-level of system performance and power efficiency for computing applications, such as AI/ML [artificial intelligence and machine learning] and high-end consumer mobile and wireless solutions.” We said at the time that larger foundries–including TSMC–would likely follow. It seems that GlobalFoundries believes TSMC has been following its new technologies for a while.

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